Primary Industries

Primary sector given 2025 deadline on emissions

The Government has given New Zealand’s agricultural sector time to fulfil its own climate change commitments, but it is keeping a big stick in its back pocket, Dileepa Fonseka reports.

New Zealand’s largest carbon-emitting industry will have until 2025 to make good on its promises to reduce and measure its own emissions. 

But the Climate Change Commission will check on its progress in three years time and if the government of the day isn’t satisfied commitments are being met it can decide to bring the entire sector into the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). 

Ten primary sector organisations and the Federation of Māori authorities have signed up to five-year primary sector climate change commitment to reduce emissions. 

Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard said the industry was committed to reducing its emissions but didn’t agree it was appropriate for it to enter the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) at any point in the future. 

"New Zealanders also need to realise that any reduction in emissions achieved here through reduced production, will likely only be replaced with production in countries that have higher emissions per unit of output, and usually by subsidised farming sectors," 

By 2025 the industry will have put in place a system to price agricultural emissions across the sector that exceed emissions targets. 

A number of benchmarks and milestones have been set on the path to get there including a commitment that by 2022 all farmers will know what emissions their farm produces. There has to be a pilot of an emissions reporting scheme by 2024.

The entry of the agriculture sector into ETS is something that the sector has fiercely lobbied against.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the deal was “a world-first agreement” between the Government and the agricultural sector on emissions. 

"For too long politicians have passed the buck and caused uncertainty for everyone while the need for climate action was clear.”

DairyNZ Chief Executive Dr Tim Mackle said the sector was pleased the Government had kept agriculture out of the ETS but was disappointed it had reserved the right to bring it into the scheme in future. 

“A new tax, in the form of a processor levy in the Emissions Trading Scheme, would have taken money out of farmers’ pockets at a time when it would be better invested on-farm to prepare for and start the process of reducing emissions.”

Agriculture accounts for 48 percent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, a situation largely unheard of in the developed world - the next closest is Ireland where just over 30 percent of its emissions come from agriculture. 

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